Skip to main content

Earthquake Near Chengdu, China: Image of the Day


Published May 12, 2008


At 2:28 p.m. local time (06:28 UTC) on May 12, 2008, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.9 struck China's Sichuan Province. The quake was felt throughout much of China, as well as parts of Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Within 24 hours, the death toll stood at 12,000, and was expected to rise significantly as search-and-rescue efforts continued.

This elevation map shows the region where the earthquake struck. Elevations -- green indicating the lowest, and beige indicating the highest -- are based on data collected by NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) flown in 2000. Overlain onto the map are earthquake magnitude indicators. The earthquake's epicenter was approximately 90 kilometers (55 miles) west-northwest of the city of Chengdu. Smaller magnitude events occurred northeast of the epicenter, and generally followed the edge of the Longmen Shan mountain range.

Most earthquake activity in central and eastern Asia results from the steady northward push of the Indian tectonic plate into the Eurasian plate. The two plates converge with a velocity of about 50 millimeters a year, lifting up the Tibetan Plateau and helping to create the mountainous terrain pictured here. As the plates collide, the crust underlying the Tibetan Plateau moves west and encounters strong crust under the Sichuan Basin. On May 12, the resulting stress caused an upward movement along the Longmen Shan or other nearby fault on the Sichuan Basin's northwestern margin.

Two chemical plants collapsed in Shifang, crushing workers and releasing 80 tons of liquid ammonia. Northwest of Chengdu, a multistory school collapsed on some 900 students, most of whom could not be saved. Afraid to return to their homes, locals endured aftershocks and heavy rains without shelter. The Sichuan quake was cited as the worst natural disaster to strike China since a 1976 earthquake destroyed the city of Tangshan in eastern China, killing more than 240,000.

  • U.S. Geological Survey. earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/eqinthenews/2008/us2008ryan/ Magnitude 7.9 - Eastern Sichuan, China. Accessed May 13, 2008.
  • Jacobs, A. (2008, May 13). www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/world/asia/14china.html Rescuers in China struggle to reach quake survivors. Accessed May 13, 2008.
  • Wong, E. (2008, May 13). www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/world/asia/13scene.html ''No hope'' for children buried in earthquake Accessed May 13, 2008.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica. www.britannica.com/eb/article-9033830/fault Faults. Accessed May 13, 2008.
  • BBC. news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7397489.stm Search for China quake survivors. Accessed May 13, 2008.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data provided courtesy of the www.landcover.org/ Global Land Cover Facility. Caption by Michon Scott.



Identifier china_srtm_2008133
Filename china_srtm_2008133_lrg.jpg
Creator NASA -- NASA Image Of The Day
Date 2008-05-12
Mediatype image
Rights Public Domain
Source http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=8744
Year 2008
Publicdate 2011-07-18 09:29:49
Addeddate 2011-07-18 09:29:49
Language English

Reviews

There are no reviews yet. Be the first one to write a review.
PEOPLE ALSO FOUND
NASA Images
9
0
0
NASA Images
by NASA
85
0
0
Source: http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/463755main_bolden_cairo_full.jpg
NASA Images
by NASA
87
0
0
Source: http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/492736main_5120428839_fedcf6143b_o_full.jpg
NASA Images
by NASA
86
0
0
Source: http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/492724main_5121030034_f808ccfe4d_o_full.jpg
NASA Images
by NASA/Marv Smith
131
0
0
NASA Images
87
0
0
Source: http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/481213main_gas_bolden_ames_full.jpg
NASA Images
by NASA/Bill Ingalls
78
0
0
NASA Images
by NASA
19
0
0
NASA Images
by NASA
21
0
0